Tonawanda News — Frank Budwey said he is stepping away from the supermarkets his family has owned for the majority of the last 86 years.
Budwey’s Markets, with three locations in North Tonawanda, Kenmore and Newfane, will come under the control of the Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative in the next 30 to 60 days, according to Budwey, 64, who said he is going to relinquish ownership and retire.
However, Dave Winicki, vice president of retail and development for the wholesaler, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that while talks about a sale were ongoing it was still too premature to call the transaction complete.
“There is no deal right now,” he said. “There’s still things that have to be done, a sales agreement that has to be made that is not signed. At this point the only thing I can say is that it’s too early to get into it.”
The company supplies wholesale goods to more than 100 stores in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, but has also dabbled in buyouts involving local grocers, according to Winicki, including stores in Franklinville and Salamanca.
Budwey, who made his announcement on Tuesday, said he has used Olean Wholesalers’ products for the last decade, and has been mulling over the decision to sell the business for the last two years, adding that he’ll keep an advisory role at the North Tonawanda locale even after the potential sale goes through.
Budwey said he believes that the company intends on keeping 430 employees currently working at his three locations, and continue the legacy of his namesake.
“I’ll retain and lease the properties,” he said. “We worked out a good deal so that the three stores will stay in business.”
The grocery store was first launched in 1922 along Oliver Street by Budwey’s grandmother, then passed down through the generations to his mother and father. Budwey said he took ownership of the store beginning in 1971, sold it to Jubilee in 1994, before buying it back in 2000 and adding locations in Kenmore and Newfane.
As shoppers came and went on Tuesday outside Budwey’s in North Tonawanda, many expressed shock that a family-owned establishment they have been frequenting for years would be selling to an outside company.
Some stated they would continue to patronize the store as long as the prices stayed low, part of its appeal, while others blamed the 2012 opening of the nearby retail giant Walmart for running a local businessman out of town.
Budwey bitterly opposed the opening of a Walmart supercenter off Niagara Falls Boulevard for years — at times earning him the ire of a group of Walmart supporters in the community — saying it would threaten local businesses. He did not cite the store’s opening as a reason for selling.
Roscoe Daugherty, of North Tonawanda, who stood outside of Budwey’s along Division Street shuffling through a box of pumpkins, said he believed Walmart’s opening was a reason for the sale and noted that the store’s low prices, customer service and local control are what drives his devotion to it.
“This is the only store I get my groceries,” he said. “But I’ll keep coming if the prices stay the same.”
Wheatfield resident Ann Teglash said she has been shopping at the North Tonawanda store for the last 20 or 30 years and would continue her patronage as long as the products, name and employees remain under new ownership.
Budwey said the move to sell the family business is bittersweet, but cited his age and his desire to “spend more time with the grandkids” as motiving factors.
“I’m going to miss seeing all the employees, all the customers and all that stuff that goes with business,” he said. “I want to thank the public in Erie and Niagara counties for supporting us for the last 86 years. Without the customers and staff we wouldn’t have been able to survive these many years.”
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.